What to Eat Wednesday: Dining out with Diabetes (Healthy Swaps)

It’s certainly harder to manage your diabetes when you’re ordering at a restaurant, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop eating out—you just have to put a little more thought into what you decide to eat.  Before you order, consider the following:

Portion size: Eating smaller portions can help you manage your blood sugar, so it's important to know the size of your dish. If your dish has more food than you normally eat at home, ask the server to give you half the dish at the table and box the other half for you to take home. You can also split a dish with someone else.

Prep method: Many restaurants offer healthy options, but how the food is prepared makes a big difference in terms of how healthy it is: breaded, deep-fried veggies, for example, are no longer so healthy. If the menu doesn't tell you how a food is prepared, ask your server. Is the food cooked with butter or vegetable oil? Can the meat and vegetables be grilled? What about sautéed or steamed vegetables?

Substitutions. One good way to stay on track at restaurants by making healthy swaps. Consider the following American Diabetes Association recommendations the next time you’re eating out:

Healthy Swaps at Different Restaurants


Instead of…

Try this…

Fried rice

Steamed rice (ask if you can have brown rice for more whole grains and fiber!)

Vegetable tempura

Steamed vegetables

Creamy crab and sweet corn soup

Wonton soup

Sweet and Sour sauce

White sauce/garlic sauce on the side

Fried spring roll

Fresh spring rolls

Coconut-milk based dishes

Stir fry dishes—ask to go light on the oil


Instead of…

Try this…

Fried calamari

Caesar or Caprese salad

Fried mozzarella

Minestrone or Italian Wedding soup

Alfredo or Carbonara sauce

Marinara sauce


Instead of…

Try this…

Flour tortillas

Corn tortillas (or whole wheat if available)

Sour cream

Pico de gallo

Refried beans

Black beans


Grilled seafood or chicken


Instead of…

Try this…

Rib eye or T-bone

Filet mignon or sirloin (Extra tip: ask the server if the steak can be cooked with olive oil instead of butter)

Loaded baked potato, mac and cheese, potatoes au gratin, creamed spinach

Grilled, steamed, or sautéed vegetables

Bearnaise or borderlaise sauce

Sautéed mushrooms and/or onions (the natural juices from these non-starchy vegetables taste great with steak!)

Pan seared steak with butter

Olive oil instead of butter

Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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